For those of you who haven’t taken a Yale tour in the past 7 years, please take a moment of your time to watch this video. 17 minutes of cringe can be too much for some so please view at your own discretion (three minutes or so should do the trick).
Now that you’ve had the chance to watch (and can from now on never un-see or un-hear) the affront to all things art that is “That’s Why I Chose Yale,” let’s debrief.
Yale admissions first started showing the video in 2010 to kick off the information session portion of their campus tours and has been running it ever since. That’s right, every single high schooler who has toured Yale since 2010 has had to sit through this crap, myself included. I remember it vividly: just after stepping over what felt like hundreds of New Haven’s homeless population on my way to the auditorium where the info session was being held, my dad and I arrived late to the meeting only to be immediately assaulted with a smug face singing “Every day I’d debate, where to matriculate.”
I felt like turning around and leaving right then and there.
But I chose to stay and power through, regretting with each passing minute the decision I had made.
So what is it that’s so wrong with this video? Is it not a valiant attempt to make the typically boring information engaging and entertaining for prospective students who have probably sat through dozens of other tours already?
Well, first off, the entire tone of the thing is off. It seems to understand to the slightest degree its absurdity and is accordingly somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But all this fails because it soon becomes abundantly clear that the video as a whole is intended to be a serious introduction to what the school has to offer and that any humor is simply a misguided attempt to justify how stupid the whole thing is.
Another thing that drives me crazy about the video is how bad the lyric writing is. Conveying information through rhyme is no easy task, and the video’s answer to solving this problem is to state the information that is important and then rhyme it with something incredibly superfluous. Take for instance at 4:11 when a guy sitting in a common room sings: “Each [residential college] has a common room, which we could not live without, to study or to meet in groups or simply to hang out.” The only useful information in that sentence is that each college has a common room, which, as On Harvard Time’s spoof points out, is “kind of like student dorms at every f***ing school,” and then the rest of the rhyme is just useless information and a complete waste of time. I could cite numerous other examples of this (pretty much every other line does it) but there’s not enough room in this column to fit them all.
My favorite moment in the video would have to be when a young and extremely orange Allison Williams (who would go on to star in the hit HBO series Girls as Marnie Michaels) sings: “Master’s teas are a chance to see, all your favorite celebrities,” only to cut to an example of one of these celebrities, Allison’s father and disgraced former NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. I know it’s slightly hypocritical of me to criticize, seeing as the only celebrity Duke can ever seem to get to come to anything is Grant Hill, but is Brian Williams really the best person that Yale could get? And even if it was, did they really need to have him be sung about by his daughter?
Look, not everything about the video is bad. The scale and production of it is pretty impressive, far better than anything Duke could pull off, and albeit cringy, the video is more entertaining than hearing someone speak over a slideshow.
But the video is fundamentally flawed for two reasons in my opinion. Firstly, it’s 17 minutes long and covers mostly information gone over afterwards in the info session or later on the tour. No matter how entertaining the thing could be, it will always be a waste of time. Secondly, the video has the potential to show artistically inclined students what Yale is capable of in that regard, but anyone with any ounce of artistic ability sees that this video is terrible. It achieves the complete opposite of what it sets out to do.
For me personally, I wouldn’t say that the video necessarily turned me off of applying to Yale; Yale wasn’t the right place for me regardless. But I will say that it gave me a really bad first impression of the school, an impression that has since then morphed into a meme of sorts among my family and friends. Nearly four years later, I still find that the phrase “And that’s why I chose Yale” in song form will pop into my head on occasion.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
So you can understand why I was thrilled to hear that on December 8, 2017, Yale admissions announced that it planned to replace the old video with a new one called “That’s Why I Toured Yale.”
Upon watching the video, I was simultaneously extremely disappointed and impressed.
Disappointed because the new video was not the hilarious disaster I was expecting it to be. The video is no longer a musical and is devoid of almost all the cheese with which the original was imbued.
Impressed because this new video fixed almost everything I took issue with in the original. It’s half the length, filled with useful information, and doesn’t crash and burn as it attempts to make unfunny joke after unfunny joke.
I will forever miss the original video, but I’m happy that Yale was able to learn from its mistakes and create a product that I think has the potential to make traditional college tours more exciting and engaging. Who knows, maybe if I had seen this new video when I was on my tour, I would have chosen Yale.
Sami Kirkpatrick is a Trinity sophomore. His column, "worms in space," runs on alternate Fridays.